ANALYSIS: After ConCourt judgment, things get sticky for once Teflon-like Zuma

Former President Jacob Zuma has five days to present himself for arrest to serve a 15-month jail sentence for contempt of court following the judgment handed down by the Constitutional Court on Tuesday morning.

FILE: Former President Jacob Zuma in the Pietermaritzburg High Court where he appeared on corruption charges on 15 October 2019. Picture: AFP.

CAPE TOWN - Former President Jacob Zuma will go down in history as one of the country’s most scandal-prone leaders, with his name inextricably linked to state capture.

Zuma now has five days to present himself for arrest to serve a 15-month jail sentence for contempt of court following the judgment handed down by the Constitutional Court on Tuesday morning.

The judgment and sentencing followed Zuma’s defiance of the order of the Constitutional Court that he should comply with summonses issued by the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture and appear before the commission.


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Eyewitness News looks back at Zuma’s controversial political career.

The last time Zuma served prison time was the 10 years he spent on Robben Island after being arrested en route for military training as an underground member of the ANC and its armed wing, uMkhonto we Sizwe.

When serving as South Africa’s deputy president, Zuma was relieved of his duties pending charges of fraud and corruption linked to the 1999 arms deal by then President Thabo Mbeki, whom Zuma later ousted at the ANC’s Polokwane conference.

“There were people who were hoping for the best – that the worst instincts within him would not see the light of day in his presidency,” said political commentator Judith February.

“But those who believed that were quickly disabused of this notion. His presidency simply became a site of (state) capture, cronyism and nepotism”.

The corruption charges continue to hang over him, but other scandals came and went, with a Teflon-like Zuma always able to survive them.

He failed to declare his financial interests, had a child out of wedlock with a close friend’s daughter and was acquitted on the charge of raping a close family friend living with HIV.

Elected in the hope he would ensure a better life for most South Africans, the scandal over millions spent upgrading his Nkandla home saw public sentiment turn against him.

But state capture allegations about links between him, his son Duduzane and the Gupta family (which they have all denied) put the Nkandla affair in the shade.

Zuma was facing his ninth motion of no-confidence in Parliament when the ANC finally got him to resign as president in February 2018.

Analysts are now predicting he may finally have run out of road.


February said Zuma put his own interests ahead of those of the country, ducking accountability at every turn.

“It seems that now we are at the point where he has run out of road. In the next five days this will be the ultimate test for the rule of law in South Africa, whether former President Zuma presents himself for imprisonment and whether he then serves out this sentence handed down by the Constitutional Court today.”

Political analyst Ralph Mathekga said much would depend on the ANC and its internal dynamics as to how things would unfold.

“Throughout his tenure as president, he sustained the idea that he was a victim of the criminal justice system – he wanted to create the impression that it was castigating him for his worldview and political ideas. Zuma was never a friend of the criminal justice system.”

Despite the many scandals that rocked his tenure, Zuma survived – only to become what Mathekga called “the champion of state capture”.

February said Zuma’s name would forever be linked to state capture and that he had failed to account for a decade of the looting of state resources.

“Jacob Zuma’s name will go down in history as being synonymous with state capture, synonymous with the hollowing out of democratic institutions, with undermining the rule of law.”

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